Alicia Keys to Perform in Israel Despite BDS Pressure

— by Steve Sheffey

Alicia Keys confirmed that she will perform in Tel Aviv on July 4 as scheduled, despite public pressure to boycott Israel from Alice Walker (who refused to authorize a translation of “The Color Purple” into Hebrew) and Roger Waters. “I look forward to my first visit to Israel. Music is a universal language that is meant to unify audiences in peace and love, and that is the spirit of our show,” she said.

Walker called Israel an “apartheid country,” said that the Israeli system is “cruel, unjust, and unbelievably evil,” and called Israel the cause of “much of the affliction in our suffering world.” Walker refused to authorize a new Hebrew translation of “The Color Purple.” Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, also urged Keys to cancel. Waters previously convinced Stevie Wonder to cancel an appearance at a Friends of the IDF event in Los Angeles.

More on the anti-Israel BDS movement after the jump.
For an excellent refutation of the canard that Israel practices apartheid, read this op-ed from Richard Goldstone, a former justice of the South African Constitutional Court.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel is condemned across the pro-Israel political spectrum, even by those who strongly believe that Israel should find a way to extricate itself from the West Bank.

According to J Street:

For some, the BDS movement has become a convenient mantle for thinly disguised anti-Semitism” and “the BDS movement fails to explicitly to recognize Israel’s right to exist and it ignores or rejects Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people. In addition, the promotion by some in the BDS movement of the return to Israel of Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their families indicates support for an outcome incompatible with our vision of Israel and incompatible with a two-state solution to the conflict.

A statement signed by the National Jewish Democratic Council and 60 other Jewish organizations opposing the BDS movement explained that “Criticism [of Israel] becomes anti-Semitism, however, when it demonizes Israel or its leaders, denies Israel the right to defend its citizens or seeks to denigrate Israel’s right to exist.”

So what do we do about it?

My view is that if an artist or scientist attempts to economically harm or delegitimize Israel, we should not economically support that person.

As much as I used to enjoy Elvis Costello’s music, I can’t listen to him anymore. I have a long list of books to read. Why read Alice Walker when there is so much other good literature? We certainly should not reject the scientific ideas of Stephen Hawking, but why buy his books? (If you must read him or Walker, use the library).

I’m not suggesting that we deny ourselves art based on the anti-Semitism of its creators. If we did, we would deprive ourselves of a large portion of Western culture. I also suspect that if we knew what was in the minds of some of our favorite artists, we might not be too happy. Rather, I am suggesting that we single out the subset of artists who have chosen to single out Israel for boycott. If they won’t play for Israelis, we shouldn’t pay money for them to play to us. So you won’t find Elvis Costello, Santana, or Stevie Wonder on my playlist, and you certainly won’t see me at their concerts.

Perhaps most important, we should visit Israel or buy Israeli goods — no matter where we are on the political spectrum.

Click here to sign up to Steve Sheffey’s newsletter.

The UN, Susan Rice & Stevie Wonder

— by Steve Sheffey

The UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine to the status of non-member observer state. As a result of the 138-9 vote (with 41 abstentions), “Palestine” now has the same status as the Vatican at the UN. Click here for the text of the resolution.  

Abba Eban said many years ago that “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” Sadly, he wasn’t that far off.

  • The UN vote to upgrade Palestine’s status dealt a blow to the peace process. Abbas must negotiate with Israel, not the UN. No viable solution can be imposed by outside parties. The question now is how to move forward toward a two-state solution given this unfortunate and counterproductive action.
  • President Obama again stood firmly with Israel, and the US was one of the few countries to vote with Israel.
  • UN Ambassador Susan Rice is pro-Israel and is qualified to be Secretary of State.
  • Stevie Wonder bowed to anti-Israel pressure and backed out of a commitment to perform at a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces event. It’s his right to make a statement. It’s our right to make a statement by not supporting artists who don’t support Israel.

Details follow the jump.  
UN Ambassador Susan Rice is pro-Israel. Rice would, in Jeffrey Goldberg’s words, stand “a decent chance of being very good in the job” of Secretary of State. On Thursday, Anne Bayefsky and Michael Mukasey wrote an error-ridden screed against Rice in the Wall Street Journal. You can read my response to Bayefsky and Mukasey in Friday’s Times of Israel.

The Republicans are also criticizing Rice for having modest stakes in companies that did business in Iran. Turns out that John McCain invests in some of those same companies.

The problem with the resolution is that it does not require the Palestinians to protect Israel’s security, recognize Israel, and end the conflict with Israel once and for all. As Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said in his address:

None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it.  The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties and not through UN resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests.  And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards…

The People of Israel wait for a Palestinian leader that is willing to follow in the path of President Sadat. The world waits for President Abbas to speak the truth that peace can only be achieved through negotiations by recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. It waits for him to tell them that peace must also address Israel’s security needs and end the conflict once and for all.

For as long as President Abbas prefers symbolism over reality, as long as he prefers to travel to New York for UN resolutions, rather than travel to Jerusalem for genuine dialogue, any hope of peace will be out of reach.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted the vote as “unfortunate and counterproductive.”

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice explained why the US voted against the resolution:

Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it.

The backers of today’s resolution say they seek a functioning, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel. So do we.

But we have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties. This is not just a bedrock commitment of the United States. Israel and the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their own obligations under existing agreements to resolve all issues through direct negotiations, which have been endorsed frequently by the international community. The United States agrees–strongly.

Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded…

We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.

Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.

For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for UN membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.

The National Jewish Democratic Council

“shares the Obama Administration’s and Israeli government’s views that actions through the Israel-obsessed UN are no substitute for direct negotiations and are ultimately counterproductive to the peace process. While the result of today’s vote proved inevitable, tremendous credit is due to the Obama Administration for making a clear case against the resolution and reiterating that the path to peace runs through direct negotiations.”

AIPAC called for a “full review” of the US relationship with the PLO. Congress probably will consider legislation that could cut aid to the Palestinian Authority or close their office in Washington depending on what happens next.

The Palestinians proved that they are more interested in theatrics than a state. Abbas should have been talking to Israel, not the UN. Only Israel and the Palestinians can resolve the differences that divide them. But the temptation to penalize the Palestinians must be tempered with the realization that a strong Palestinian Authority remains Israel’s best (albeit far from perfect) partner for peace. Now is not the time for the US to make hasty decisions.

The pro-Israel case for a two-state solution is not based on justice for the Palestinians, whatever that means. It is based on Israel’s need to separate from the Palestinian majority on the West Bank so that Israel can remain Jewish and democratic. Any proposed action or legislation should be judged on whether it will move us closer to a two-state solution, not on whether it satisfies our legitimate anger about Palestinian intransigence. It’s too bad the UN resolution passed, but it did. We cannot let it derail our efforts to end the conflict. Instead, American and Israeli leadership must find a way to capitalize on it and move forward toward a two-state solution.

Ha’aretz argues that “a recognized Palestinian state will give Israel a responsible partner with international backing — one that will represent the entire Palestinian people and be able to make decisions in its name.” But the Jerusalem Post says that “The PLO’s UN bid is misguided and wrongheaded and will do nothing but add to the long list of historic mistakes made by Palestinian leadership which date back at least to November 29, 1947 when Palestinians failed to grab their chance for nationhood and self-determination.” I urge you to read both editorials.

More on Gaza. Michael Oren’s “Falling for Hamas’s media manipulation” is a must-read.  

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik writes that

I hope that those who have spent the past few months using Israel as a wedge issue between Jews and Democrats and vilifying the President as, to put it benignly, “no friend of Israel,” took note of the clear and unconditional support that all members of the Obama administration offered for Israel throughout the [Gaza] campaign. There was no evidence of Mr. Obama acting in any way other than we would want a steadfast ally to act. The President did and said exactly what Israel needed and wanted him to. In light of his having had to endure the most egregious and gratuitous lashon harah as regards his Middle East policy, I would suggest that not only did the President pass this test, but he passed it graciously and courageously, and with flying colors. Thank you for that support, Mr. President.

It was certainly gratifying as well to have such solid support within the halls of Congress. Given how many new members of Congress there are these days, and how much turnover of seats and of elected representatives who have been among Israel’s staunchest supporters, Congress also responded magnificently. We would all be remiss were we to fail to acknowledge the incredibly effective work of AIPAC in this regard.

Stevie Wonder backed out of a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces fundraiser. Wonder pulled out of a major FIDF benefit. He joins Elvis Costello and Carlos Santana among artists who have bowed to anti-Israel pressure. It’s their right to make a statement. But it’s our right to make a statement too, by not supporting artists who do not support Israel.